Owning a Pub

Having seen this trade close up and from the inside this makes sense to me:

It is Friday night in the village of Cookham Dean, Berkshire and, even though it is bitingly cold outside, the Jolly Farmer pub is full of people. The landlords, David and Laura Kelsey, are busy cooking in the kitchen, while the bar staff are pouring pints as if their lives depended on it. The people at the bar are chatting and laughing away. Everyone seems to know each other. "There\’s another pub in the village but we all come here," says one local. "The pub is owned by the village, so we have a vested interest in supporting it."

Twenty years ago, 60 villagers bought the Jolly Farmer, and they have owned it ever since. The village leases the pub to a landlord, who runs it day-to-day, and the result is a popular local that caters to what the villagers want. "There are certain requirements," says David Kelsey. "I can\’t play background music, and I can\’t have any gambling machines. I have to serve a variety of beers, and no one wants high-concept food. It\’s fine with me, though, because I knew this before I took it over.

"This pub was on the verge of being closed down," he continues. "No one came in here. It was really suffering. Now, that is true of many of the other local pubs round here."

That\’s all lovely, the community spirit thing, but I wager that the real reason this works is a great deal more simple.


As the article mentions, the average pub now costs £400,000. If you\’re a brewery that owns it, you want a rent on that. If you\’re an individual proprietor, then again, you want  a rent on that. However, if the villagers put up the money, say £6 k each, then while they are indeed shareholders, they\’re likely to think that having a well functioning pub is reward enough, perhaps not looking for a financial return on that cost.

And thus some, what, £30k to £60k is magicked out of the cost base of the pub. And given pub margins, that\’s one hell of a benefit: prices can be lower etc.

Some will say that this shows what a rip off capitalism itself is: but note that we haven\’t in fact got rid of the need for capital at all. All we\’ve done is shift the reward to those who provide it. From a financial return to the more direct one of having a decent place to have a pint.

If it\’s worth £6k to you to have that then go for it. If you can persuade enough of your fellows to make it work then good luck to you.

For rather than ours beiong a capitalist society we\’re much more importantly a free(ish) market one and we have a market in forms of ownership just as much as we do in anything else.

Brewery ownership? Sole proprietor? Customer co-ops? Workers\’ co-ops?

Hey, have fun and let us know how you get on.

6 thoughts on “Owning a Pub”

  1. “I can’t play background music, and I can’t have any gambling machines.”
    Civilisation lingers on.

  2. “I can’t play background music, and I can’t have any gambling machines.”

    mmm, that’s going to treble trade and double house prices in the area then. So there may be something in it for the shareholders after all?

  3. The “shareholders” are nothing more than a privileged class that obviously found the means to finance the pub by resting their heel on the neck of the everyman. The government should step-in and redistribute ownership among the entire town.
    Sarcasm is coming on early today…

  4. My local is owned by the Landlord. He totally revitalised a dying pub. Great beers (real ales, well kept, CAMRA awards) and excellent food. Not prissy food, although the specials can be a bit more exotic. Lovely place. Smoking ban didn’t reduce his trade. A family owned and run pub. Rural, pleasant, although the police do wait in ambush occasionally.

    Although the above model in the article is a good one, it is the relentless taxation of beer that is making it difficult to patronise the local as the beer is simply getting so expensive!

  5. “However, if the villagers put up the money, say £6 k each, then while they are indeed shareholders, they’re likely to think that having a well functioning pub is reward enough,”

    Don’t you believe it! We bought a successful pub at a premium rate and we pay a full( some might say high) rent and all of the other rising costs of the daily running of a pub.
    The benefits are we do not have a pub company breathing down our necks for targets or modernisation, we enjoy a good relationship with the shareholders and the village has a sense of ownership. We have great customers who create a great atmosphere!
    Come & find out for yourselves!

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